US adds 14 Chinese firms to economic black list over Xinjiang

The US on July 9 added 14 Chinese companies and other entities to its economic blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang.
July 10, 2021 | 07:37
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US adds 14 Chinese firms to economic black list over Xinjiang
Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Photo: Reuters

The companies are among the 34 entities added to the Entity List for “their involvement in, or risk of becoming involved in, activities contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.”

They 14 firms have “enabled Beijing’s campaign of repression, mass detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions of China,” according to the US Department of Commerce.

The department said it added another five entities directly supporting China’s military modernization programs related to lasers and C4ISR programs to the Entity List.

The Entity List is a tool utilized by the Bureau of Industry and Security to restrict the export, reexport, and transfer (in-country) of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to persons (individuals, organizations, companies) reasonably believed to be involved, or to pose a significant risk of becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

Additional license requirements apply to exports, re-exports, and transfers (in-country) of items subject to the EAR to listed entities, and the availability of most license exceptions is limited.

Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially called a “vocational skills education centre” in Xinjiang. Photo: Reuters
Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially called a “vocational skills education centre” in Xinjiang. Photo: Reuters

Reuters said the US’s action follows its decision last month to add five other companies and other Chinese entities to the blacklist over allegations of forced labor in the far western region of China.

The additions to the Commerce Department’s Entity List are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to hold China accountable for human rights violations, Al Jazeera cited sources as saying.

China dismisses accusations of genocide and forced labour in Xinjiang and says its policies are necessary to stamp out separatists and religious extremists, who plotted attacks and stirred up tension between mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs and Han, China’s largest ethnic group.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abuse of Uighurs

The additions are the latest salvo as President Joe Biden presses China for what the administration has said are worsening human rights abuses against the Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Generally, entity-listed companies are required to apply for licences from the Commerce Department and face tough scrutiny when they seek permission to receive items from US suppliers.

Last month, the Commerce Department said it was adding the five Chinese entities “for accepting or utilising forced labour in the implementation of the People’s Republic of China’s campaign of repression against Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region”.

The department said the action in June targeted the ability of the five entities, including Chinese-based solar panel material firm Hoshine Silicon Industry, “to access commodities, software, and technology … and is part of a US Government-wide effort to take strong action against China’s ongoing campaign of repression against Muslim minority groups” in Xinjiang.

Not the first time

In 2019, the Trump administration also added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist over its treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including widespread surveillance [File: Ng Han Guan/AP]
In 2019, the Trump administration also added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist over its treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including widespread surveillance. Photo: AP

This is not the first time the US government has targeted Chinese firms linked to allegations of high-tech surveillance activity in Xinjiang.

In 2019, the Trump administration added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist for its treatment of Muslim minorities.

The Commerce Department under Trump targeted 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group and Megvii Technology.

The Commerce Department said in 2019 the entities were implicated in “high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, most of them Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang, according to Reuters. /.

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